April 28, 2012

It's all happening!

Have you noticed I've been mostly ignoring my blog lately?

Hmm...you didn't? Well, that hurts my feelings a little.  (But not really, I promise. I've developed mighty thick skin in the past few months.)

Well, I haven't been writing much because it turns out, when I'm trying to come to a Big Decision about Something Very Important, I retreat into my own private hell of uncertainty, from which I have trouble exiting for anything other than chocolate or wine.

And there was a Very Big Decision to be made...but now I've made it!

I'm excited to share here that I'll be publishing my first book, tentatively titled How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse, with MuseItUp Publishing!  It's a small, mostly-online house, and is the perfect fit for my little tale of life post-zombie-apocalypse.

I signed the contract Thursday night, and I'm super excited to be a new face on their team.

Seriously, people. I AM SO EXCITED. It's not an exaggeration for once.

It's funny. I didn't grow up wanting to be a writer. I wanted to be (in order): a fireman, a paleontologist, a doctor, an actor, and a lawyer.  Seriously - it wasn't until I majored in English that I even began to think about writing , and even then, it was more of a way of evading the "Do you want to teach" question that I was asked ALL THE TIME (teaching being the only useful thing to do with an English degree, I guess).  My answer was always, "Nah, I'd be a terrible teacher. I guess I'll just have to be a writer."

It was a joke, right? I had ideas for books all the time, but the idea of actually writing one? It was too silly to even contemplate.

But then. Then I started writing.

And I learned that wow! This is what I want to be when I grow up. This is my dream.

And this week I took a major step forward towards realizing my dreams.

So, thanks to everyone who stops by this blog - your support means millions.  Thanks to my family (especially Charles and my mom) for all your help! Please, keep it up if you can - this is going to be one hell of a journey for me, I'm sure.

And thanks to the lovely people at Muse, for giving me a chance! I'll make the most of it! I promise!

(Now we can resume normalcy here at the blog. Book review, musings on life and writing, whatever else catches my fantasy - who knows where we'll go together next!)

April 17, 2012

Limited exposure

I've spoken before about my childhood, growing up in a house in which horror movies were a constant. I don't remember not knowing who Dracula was, and one of the first movies I remember watching is The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Well, that, and Swamp Thing. The two slimy creatures are inextricably blended in my dreams.

I liked it, though. I was never at a lack for ways to scare my friends at sleepovers. I had nightmares about monsters, sure, but my most terrifying recurring dream involved me attempting to drive a big car over a bridge made of two tightrope wires.

The monsters? They were just another thing in my life. For the most part, they didn't affect me. (Except the C.H.U.D.s. One day I'll tell that Embarrassing Childhood Story here...just for my mom...but not today.)

For the most part, we're raising Zoe the same way.  Our house is filled with superheros, bad guys, action figures from Star Wars. Zombie books. You name it, we probably have it. I used to try to keep them from Zoe, to shelter her, but that's mostly impossible. Completely limiting her exposure to monsters didn't feel right.

Today Charles added something new to our collection: a blood-splattered Rick Grimes action figure (he's the sheriff in The Walking Dead), the back of which is decorated with pictures of the other, zombie action figures.  (He bought it for me. I love my husband.)

Zoe took it off the counter.  

"Ew, Daddy," she said, laughing. "Look at the zombies!"

Together, they analyzed the zombie that pulled apart to become a crawler. They laughed over the one whose brain comes out of its head.

Because Zoe knows zombies aren't real. She knows Mommy writes zombie books, but makes it all up.  We have a LOT of discussions over what's real and what's pretend.

And, you know, she has her fears, and for the most part she self-censors. She's terrified of witches right now, and won't even look at the cover of The Wizard of Oz or Snow White, since the evil witches make her cry. She hated the cover of Dawn of the Dreadfuls, which had a child zombie, so that book is tucked away where she can't reach it.

And, sometimes I do have to protect her.

Because for me another recurring dream involves a scream. A tire rolling past my seat in the back of my parents' car. 

That was an impression that stuck around from an accident I witnessed when I was so young I don't actually have memories of it.

Yesterday, Zoe and I drove home from work and school.  We were a little late, since I'd been caught in a meeting, and when we hit a patch of traffic on a road close to home, I silently cursed. I was ready to be home.

Then, as we got closer to the source of the traffic, I saw the blue flashing lights of a few police cars.  I saw a fire truck.

In the back, Zoe was happily chatting about the randomness in her head.  

The accident was on our left. It was bad. I saw an overturned car, and a truck without a front end. 

On our right was a small river that winds through our little area of the city. It's pretty and marshy and we both like to look at it.

"Baby, do me a favor, ok?" I said as I stared at the decimated cars.

"What, Mommy?"

"Watch the river for dolphins, ok? I really want you to find me a dolphin."

"Ok, Mommy."

I drove nearer to the accident, willing the car in front of me to go faster. Luckily whoever survived the wreck was long taken away, I assume by ambulance. Of course the cars around me drove slow, staring at the piles of rubble.

"Do you see any dolphins, Boo? Any at all?"

"Yes! I see one! I see the fin!"

"Great! Find me another!"

We finally passed the wreck.  Zoe turned forward, as we were past the river, too. 

Sometimes, you do need to protect your child from the things you can't explain.

April 15, 2012

Babylit and the books that save your brain

When Charles and I found out Zoe was on her way (but before we knew she was Zoe), the first thing we agreed on was this: we wanted our baby to love books as much as we both do.

(Seriously people: we love books. We have a room upstairs entirely filled with books. So much so that we can't use it as a guest room. That said, it's also where the cats' litterbox is, but whatever. I'll post a picture here one day.)

One of the next things we agreed on was that we needed cool books for her. Because the thought of reading and rereading baby books we hated over and over and over...well, it was a dismal thought.

A go-to baby book for us was the Charley Harper ABC book. We all loved it, and by the time Zoe was one, she knew the sound each animal made (except water-striders...I don't think they actually make sounds).

So when my friend Eric over at Quirk Books said he had some baby books based on classic literature, I jumped all over it. 

He sent me these:

Aren't they gorgeous?  

Classic literature, turned basic for babies. They can learn their colors while you look at beautiful Alice-themed pictures. They can learn to count while you remember reading Jane Eyre back in high school.

So....beautiful.  Seriously.

I shared them with Zoe the day we got them in the mail. She liked the pictures, and had a favorite page in each book. She did gravitate more towards the bright pinks and oranges of Alice, but I personally like the blues and grays of Jane. 

Basically, we loved looking at these books together.  I'll admit, they're a little basic for my almost-four-year-old, so she quickly went back to her superhero books, but we had fun for a little while.

So now I can't wait to pass these along to a couple of friends having babies this summer.  I think their little girls will wind up LOVING them almost as much as Zoe loved her Charley Harper books.

Because really, to help your child love books, you have to love the ones you're sharing.  So share these. They're fabulous.

April 11, 2012

A poem for a whale...and my family

It's no secret that I love children. I babysat my way through high school and college, forming relationships with kids and their parents that have lasted ever since. I spent an amazing summer working with developmentally-disabled pre-schoolers. I talk a ton about my own Zoe, as seen on this blog.

So it's no surprise that, in addition to my zombies and my monsters and my Frankenstein girl, I've been doing some writing for kids this year.  I've posted two stories here already.

But I'm not a poet. Seriously. I am NOT a poet.

Still. I have this funny little cousin, about five years old. She's the daughter of my first-cousin, and I love stories about her. She's a clever little thing, with gorgeous blonde curls, and if we ever get Zoe and her together, the results would be epic.

At Christmastime this past year, she wanted NOTHING other than a whale from Santa Claus. Nothing. The story caught my attention.

Because my uncle passed away a number of years ago, before this little girl was even born. And he...loved...whales. He wore a whale tail charm on a chain around his neck; my aunt, his wife, wears it to this day.

So I thought about my little cousin, and her whale, and I had to do something.

So I wrote, and this time it came out in little rhyming verses.

It was terrible poetry, I'm sure, but it was a sweet little story, so I typed it up and sent it to her mom. Apparently my baby cousin loved it, and they printed a copy, framed it, and hung it on the wall in her bedroom.

That's pretty high praise, in and of itself.

But then, the other day, it got even nicer.

It was my uncle's birthday. Every year, my cousin has her children decorate little paper lanterns and they set them afloat in a river at the beautiful park at which my uncle's memorial service was held. Those lanterns are supposed to light the way for my uncle to come home for a little visit.

This year, when my cousin asked her 5-year-old daughter if she wanted to write something on her lantern, something special to say to her grandfather, the little girl lit up. She knew exactly what she wanted to say. She ran to her bedroom, pulled down my silly little poem, and asked her mother to write two lines from it on her lantern. She wanted to use my words to talk to her grandfather.

They floated the lanterns down the river the next day, and I like to think my uncle got to read what I wrote. At least a piece of it.

I can think of no higher praise or accomplishment than that.


Squirty's Poem

I want a whale for Christmas.
Only a whale’ll do.
We’ll find each other at the dock
And swim the ocean blue.

A whale is soft, not slimy,
A truly gentle beast.
He’ll carry me upon his back
On our way to a fishy feast.

I think he’ll be blue with polka dots,
This giant whale of mine,
With eyes as big as pie plates,
And fins so velvet-fine.

I want a whale for Christmas,
And a whale I think I’ll get.
He’ll be waiting under my Christmas tree,
He’ll get my brother’s presents wet.

No one will mess with me
When they see me with my whale.
He’d beat up all the boys at school
With one WHISH of his tale.

I’ll be like a superhero!
Whale Girl with her sidekick friend.
We’ll rescue sailors from pirates.
Trouble on the seas would end.

I want a whale for Christmas.
And a whale I know it must be.
He’ll swim me up to Heaven
For special time with my Grandpa and me.

‘Cuz my Grandpa? He loved whales,
And wore a tail upon a chain.
He’d stare at the ocean looking for spouts
Which would fall to the water like rain.

With my whale we’d ride together.
We’d fly across the waves.
If the three of us were together
I’d never not be brave .

I want a whale for Christmas
Only a whale’ll do
My whale, and me and Grandpa?
We’ll swim the ocean blue.

April 7, 2012

On scary dreams

Is it strange that I like scary dreams? Or weird dreams? Or dreams which follow movie-like story arcs, from which I wake up more exhausted than when I went to sleep?

Probably not. They seem to be great for inspiration.

Take my current project (tentatively titled either Dead Girl Walking or simply Jo). It grew from a dream I had months ago.  In it, I sat on the bed in my freshman year college dorm room (Freeman Hall at Montclair State, in case you wondered).  A knock came at the door, and it popped open. Two girlfriends (no one I recognized from real life) walked in.  One was very giggly, and the other was very serious.

She walked straight to me, while the giggly girl perched on my roommate's bed across the room.

The serious girl sat beside me. 

"I'm dead," she said. "I just thought you'd want to know. If you don't believe me, just smell. I think someone embalmed me."

And then I woke up.

It's now more than 50,000 words of novel, and I probably have about 20,000 words left to write of the rough draft, and I have to say, I LOVE it.  I've had such a fun time writing about how this girl came to be a conscious, walking, dead person.

So last night I had a full-fledged zombie dream.  I mean, they were everywhere, like swarms of angry fire ants, eating everything in their path. It was scary and intense.

But then, someone figured out that there was some material (it came from a magician's bag-o-tricks, no lie) that, when held up to one's face, made people invisible to the zombies. It was like some weird invisibility cloak. 

There was actually a scene in the dream in which hundreds of people and zombies merged together in one building, doing this macabre, graceful dance, in which the zombies hunted for people, and the "invisible" people avoided contact.

And then, one of the "invisible" people was infected while invisible, and that created a sort of mutated, even more horrific zombie, who could see through all the invisibility cloaks.

It was freaky, and even after I woke up I was a little terrified.

But man...if I can use that somehow? It's pretty cool, right? Mmm...pretty cool.

(And for the record, I don't mind sharing ideas...what you write with the above idea would probably be WAY different from what I write with the same idea...and I believe, quite firmly, that every story has already been told, dozens of times.)

Happy weekend, everyone!

April 4, 2012

Geeking out re: Anne Frank

If you follow me on Twitter or are friends with me on Facebook (hello, friends!), you might have seen that earlier this week Charles surprised me with a gift: a 1952 copy of Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. It may or may not be a second printing of the first edition; we're having a hard time confirming that. But it is for sure from the first American run of the diary, and it is for sure a thing of beauty.

Mmm...it smells like an old book should.

It's beautiful, really, and Anne's words shine against the simple typeset with the introduction by Eleanor Roosevelt.

It's sitting in a place of honor on our downstairs bookshelf.

This book had a major impact this book had on my young life. It's pretty easy to understand. I first read it when I was about eleven years old. The fact that it was written by a girl not much older than me was never lost on me. I admired her talent, her honesty, and I felt connected to her. She was emotional, like me. She had fights with her mother, like me. Her sister drove her nuts, like my brother(s) drove me nuts. 

Honestly, in my first couple reads of the diary, it was lost on me that the book had such a historical significance. I knew we were both Jewish, and that she was killed because of it during the Holocaust, but I didn't know much more.

I bought a diary soon after my first read.  I wrote in it, trying like hell to copy her voice and her style, not yet having found my own. I failed miserably, though, and every time I read back something which I'd written, I cringed in embarrassment. 

I was a terrible writer!

As time passed, I learned so much more about the Holocaust and Anne's life. I have dozens of books about each topic. The day I read about the vast amount of editing Anne put into her diary in the later years of hiding, I wanted to go back in time to tell 11-year-old me that it was ok to write crap at first, so long as you figure out how to edit it to make it good. I wish I'd known that then.

But I know it now.

Anyway, I've always wanted a copy from that first American run. I've looked at book fairs and library sales. I dragged my brother Daniel around used bookstores in London because, clearly, I was destined to find it in London. I wasn't. (I did find a UK edition, though, so our time wasn't wasted.)

And now, thanks to a lucky find on E-bay by my husband, I am the proud owner of this amazing book.

I can't wait to read it! As soon as I finish this *other* book about Anne Frank that I'm reading right now.